Offices and workplaces may have opened up, but not all employees want to go back to commuting, Pret coffees and supermarket lunch deals.
Earlier this year, a survey of more than 3,000 workers found that fewer than one in 10 want to return to the office full-time. According to the research, 78% of respondents said they would prefer to work in the office for two days a week or less. Almost a third – 31% – said they would prefer not to spend any time at all in the office.
After being forced to trial home-working because of the pandemic, many employers have accepted that it’s not only possible but comes with a range of benefits too. However, not all businesses are keen to let people work remotely. So what is the best way to ask your boss if you can do so permanently?
“I'm a huge advocate for flexible and remote working. When it comes to presenting your case to your employer, rather than thinking about why it's good for you, think about why it's good for your boss, your clients, colleagues and the business as a whole,” says Helen Jane Campbell, a life and business coach for creative people and an author.
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Before arranging a meeting with your boss, it can help to formulate a plan about how you can work from home. You might want to outline what you can get done and highlight that you are able to work even when you are out of the office. If you’ve already been working from home during the pandemic, highlight how successful this has been and how you’ve stayed motivated and productive during these difficult times.
It can also help to think about potential problems you might encounter when working from home and how you would address them. For example, how you would communicate with colleagues or managers in an emergency.
“It may also be useful to carry out some basic research into themes such as money saved, productivity and happiness, and provide that evidence, especially if it's specific to your employer and their business,” says Campbell.
“If you can prove that home-working can improve the organisation – and is not solely about meeting your needs – then you're likely to have a stronger case. It might also be worth taking a look at the company's values, HR policies and any positive examples that back up your case.”
It’s important to remember your rights too. At present, UK law states that employees can only request to work flexibly after 26 weeks of employment, with a limit of one request per 12 months.
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This can be to request a change to full-time or part-time work, job-share, work from home, or a change of working days or hours. Employers are legally obliged to consider flexible working requests in a reasonable manner.
Although you may be nervous about asking your employer about home-working, it’s essential to stay calm, professional and concise about what you want.
“Honesty is good but bringing too many emotions into the negotiation may stop you from being able to see things clearly,” says Campbell. “If you feel a lot of emotion coming up for you when you start to think about or talk about this topic then you might find it helpful to talk it through with a friend, your coach or mentor before you approach the conversation with your boss.”
It’s also important to approach your employer at the right time so you can have a conversation without distractions. “My advice is to use email to follow-up and clarify but not to make the request that way – unless that is unavoidable for some reason,” Campbell adds. “Hiding behind emails can cause miscommunication and tends to be less collaborative than a two-way chat.”
With any luck, you may be able to reach an agreement with your manager about flexible working. But if your boss is still reluctant to allow you to work from home, it’s important to consider the reasons why.
“Perhaps they are worried about more work falling to those employees who are back in the office, for example,” says Campbell. “However, it's likely that over the last year and a half you've adapted and found innovative ways to stay connected and support one another remotely. Coming to the conversation with innovations and examples might help reassure everyone."
Finally, Campbell advises thinking about your career in the long run when asking to work remotely. “If you agree to a request from your boss that really doesn't work for you, then at some point it's likely you're probably going to feel resentful or disengaged,” she says. “Ultimately if it's a deal-breaker for you and your request is not granted then maybe it's time to activate plan B, which might mean finding a new place to work in the long run.”
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